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Elios 3’s Indoor 3D Mapping Helps City of Lausanne in Water Department Inspections

Lausanne's Water Department used the Elios 3 to create precise 3D maps of its assets, helping them to plan, track changes over time, and perform other important maintenance tasks.

Benefits in a nutshell

Indoor 3D Maps

The Elios 3’s LiDAR sensor allowed Water Department personnel to create precise 3D maps of its assets, which they used for simulations, planning, tracking changes over time, and other maintenance-related work.

Monitoring Defects 

The Elios 3’s 3D maps contain the precise geolocation of defects found during inspections, allowing inspectors to return to that location for future monitoring.


The Elios 3 was able to collect such high quality visual and LiDAR data that it eliminated the need for inspectors to expose themselves to the dangers of entering structures for the purposes of collecting inspection data.  


The city of Lausanne, Switzerland is widely known as an innovation hub.  The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a university that focuses on innovation and research, creates several technology-focused startups a year, and many of them choose the city as their headquarters.  In total, the city is home to over a hundred startups—including Flyability. For this reason, Lausanne often leverages the cutting edge technology located within its borders, working with local startups to leverage new technology in its work. As part of this effort, Lausanne’s Water Department conducted a series of tests with Flyability’s Elios 3 to find ways that it could improve its internal inspections.

Customer Needs

Lausanne’s Water Department oversees the entire water cycle for the city, managing sewage operations as well as maintenance, purification, and storage for the city’s drinking water. As part of their work, personnel from the department must regularly monitor and maintain all of the city’s water-related assets. This work requires periodic inspections, during which city inspectors will look for defects within the city’s water systems and assets, which may require maintenance or further monitoring.

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The primary assets the Water Department periodically inspects include:
  • Wastewater evacuation vaults. Inspections inside these vaults present dangers to inspectors from gases, biohazards (in the form of human waste), and confined space entry. Water Department personnel try to enter them only when absolutely necessary, planning carefully when they do so and wearing gas masks and other PPE to ensure their safety.
  • Water tanks. Inspections inside these tanks used to store drinking water for the city require inspectors to enter confined spaces. Inspecting the tank’s slabs also requires work at height on scaffolding, presenting a further danger to inspectors.
Other assets the Water Department routinely inspect include storm overflows and spillways, drinking water reservoirs, manifolds, ovoid tanks, and evacuation collectors. When inspecting these assets, tracking the evolution of defects over time is a key part of the work.  Some of the most common concerns are waste accumulation, gallery collapses, and the general integrity of the assets used in the system. During an inspection, city personnel return to the location of defects that were previously identified to see if they have gotten worse. Knowing the exact location of each defect is crucial for monitoring them, and making sure they don’t get worse.


Personnel involved in inspections at Lausanne’s Water Department decided to test the Elios 3 to:
  • Create detailed 3D models of internal spaces within assets to support their maintenance work, including reconstructing the structure as it was originally built and tracking changes to it over time using the model as a digital twin.
  • Pinpoint the location of each defect identified in inspection data, so inspectors could return to the exact place where a defect was previously found using a 3D model created with data collected by the Elios 3.
  • Improve safety in its inspections by eliminating the need for confined space entry and work at height on scaffolding.


Over a period of six months, the Water Department used the Elios 3 for several inspections.

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These test missions were a success for the department, allowing them to address all their needs for the creation of 3D maps, remote data collection, and pinpointing the location of defects to enable precise monitoring over time.
“The Elios 3’s 3D maps allow us to model any structure we need, whether it's a storm overflow or a drinking water reservoir. Then we can use these maps to conduct simulations, reconstruct a precise plan of the structure as it was built, and track the exact location of defects found in our inspection work.”

- Sébastien Ramelet, Project Manager Engineer/Water Protection Inspector for the City of Lausanne Water Department

Here are two examples of the kinds of inspections the department performed with the Elios 3:

1. Tank Slab Inspection

The Water Department performed a tank slab inspection with the Elios 3 in half a day, cutting the time needed for the inspection down from five days.  Much of that time was spent building scaffolding, moving it around within the tank, and then taking it down once the inspection was complete. Because the Elios 3 can fly into the tank and collect data remotely this scaffolding was not needed, which made the inspection both faster and safer.

2. Storm Spillway Inspection

The Water Department inspected a storm spillway with the Elios 3, using it to create a 3D model of the structure. The Elios 3 allowed inspectors to stay above ground while collecting the data they needed, eliminating the potential hazards of entering the spillway. The 3D model created with the Elios 3’s LiDAR data was used to create a simulation of the storm spillway, which helped the Water Department make maintenance determinations.

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Through these inspections, and several others, the Water Department realized several benefits from using the Elios 3 in its inspection work. Here are all of those benefits:
  • Indoor 3D Maps.The Elios 3’s 3D maps provided helpful data for monitoring the location of defects and simulating the performance of wastewater structures over time.
  • Monitoring defects over time. The Elios 3’s 3D maps allows inspectors to gelocate every defect found during an inspection so they can return to that specific place in the future, radically improving their ability to monitor defects. In addition, the video footage from the Elios 3 allows inspectors to return to a specific location within an asset and see what it looked like on a specific date, giving them greater insights into the changes in the asset over time.
  • Safety. The Elios 3 allowed inspectors to eliminate the need to enter dangerous confined spaces or work at height for data collection, significantly improving safety in their work. 
  • Speed. The Elios 3 helped reduce the time needed for several inspections the Water Department conducts. The time needed for a tank inspection, for example, was cut from one week to half a day, saving four and a half days of work by removing the need for building scaffolding.
  • Ease of use. Personnel at the Water Department who had never flown a drone before were able to use the Elios 3 quickly for their work, with less than an hour of training.
  • Data quality.The Elios 3’s visual data was of the same quality as that which could be collected by an inspector but with the added benefits of ensuring full coverage and storing all the data collected in 4K, while a person may miss a defect and/or forget its location and what it looked like.

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The city of Lausanne’s Water Department has decided to permanently adopt the Elios 3 for its internal inspections, in addition to traditional visual inspections.  The testing it conducted was so exhaustive that it was able to build out its drone program and associated practices while it tested, allowing it to begin implementing regular use of the Elios 3 throughout its maintenance work. Over time, the 3D models the Water Department creates with the Elios 3 will allow for significant improvements in monitoring the changes of its structures, creating a permanent digital record of the location and development of defects that will improve the longevity of its assets.


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